Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Seven Questions...Life After Loss

When I was a little girl, Jolyn was definitely my favorite aunt. She was young enough to be my older sister, but old enough to be glamorous and exciting. I wanted to be just like her.
I remember when she met her Prince Charming--Tom--and thought I had died and gone to fairy tale heaven when I got to be a flower girl at her wedding reception.I got a whole life's education listening to Aunt Jolyn and the other family females talk about having husbands and having babies, picking books and shopping for shoes. (These days the conversations are taking place in the blogosphere instead of Grandma's backyard... and I'm still learning!)

Our entire extended family has been taught by Aunt Jolyn's example. When she was just 36 years old, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. For five and a half years, she cared for him, while keeping life as normal as possible for her four young children.

Tom fought hard. Jolyn did too. Although cancer won this battle, the war is not over. Jo's strength and courage has kept her family stable--even thriving. She has gone on to raise a small fortune to help others fighting the disease. And, through it all, remained cheerful, funny and full of faith.

Here are Jolyn's thoughts on surviving the worst...

1. Cancer is one of the most terrifying words in the English language. What were your first reactions to your husband's diagnosis? How did this news change your life?
When Tom was diagnosed with cancer, I was terrified. He kept saying, 'It's ok, no big deal, they will get it all.' I just cried and cried. One of the things I thought was ' We will never have a normal life again.' And I guess we didn't. The illness became our 'normal' life... It changed my life because we were centered on this disease now. I was very frightened of Tom dying...the idea of death scared me. I didn't want to be alone--I resist change. Often, I thought that maybe one reason he stayed around so long was so I could get used to the idea of being on my own.

2. What advice do you have for women in a similar situation? How did you care for a sick husband and still keep life "normal" for your children?
Whenever I hear that someone has cancer, I get sick to my stomach. I really, really feel for anyone in this situation. It's hard to care for everyone.

Looking back, I think I was in a fog for my two older kids' high school years. I remember them, but, don't. I'm surprised that they all graduated from school. I feel like I was on cruise control...just doing things, not really paying attention. (Actually...that's just what happens when you raise kids!)

Another lesson I learned, life goes on, no matter what. What I mean is that your husband might be dying, but you still can get mad at him! It's a weird thing to be so mad at someone, and then realize how dumb it is because he might not be there tomorrow.

I was very lucky in the fact that Tom was really healthy, except for the fact that he had cancer. He had a will of iron and he wasn't going to let his cancer get him down. He was in the bishopric at church the entire time and was also president of his company.

Tom had many operations over the years. Often, doctors would predict that the recovery would take six weeks, yet within two or three weeks he would be back at work. He used to have chemo treatments every other week for a week at a time. But he would come home from the hospital on Sunday and go to work on Monday. Did I mention that he loved to work? It really helped the rest of us to get back to normal, too. We tried to keep things going along the normal way. Our kids played tennis and they kept on playing. We did everything that we always had done...we just added cancer treatments to our lives.

3. Who took care of YOU during this trial? What care do caregivers need? How can loved ones BEST help?
I was really blessed during that time. I had a very strong support system (and still do). My parents were wonderful. My dad would call all the time and give me 'think positive talks'. My mom and sister, Polly, took turns coming down and staying with the kids while Tom was in the hospital. That way I could be with him during the day and spend that time with him. That's one thing--the patient needs someone with him to make sure that things are happening like they should be. Having my mom at home with the kids made me much less stressed.

This was an interesting few years...because during Tom's sickness, my mom passed away suddenly and then my dad got sick and died 3 months before my husband. That was probably one of the hardest times in my life, those months before Tom died. It made me just so much more grateful for my parents and all they meant to me throughout my life...and I was lucky to have my brother and sisters who stepped in to take care of me...and they did a wonderful job. I'm really lucky.

As a caregiver, I just sometimes had to go shopping or go to lunch, to do something for myself. I think that's important, because if you don't take care of yourself, you'll fall apart. I'm always much more sensitive when I'm worn out. Everyone is. Before, I thought I didn't like massages, but now they are my favorite. Great stress relief!
Loved ones can help best by just being available, for mental therapy. Being there as a friend. Knowing that you aren't alone is a wonderful feeling. I spent many nights driving the hour-long commute from the hospital talking to one family member or friend. Great therapy for me! We also have a great support system at church. They were so great during this time. I think the experience strengthened our friendships and drew us closer everyone as we fasted and prayed for Tom. It was a humbling experience.

4. The thing I remember most about Uncle Tom was his sense of humor. Were you ever able to just laugh during this awful time? Are there any memories that make you smile?
Yes, Tom was really funny and that's one of the reasons we made it through that time...and still is! I think our family has a warped sense of humor. We would make jokes about a lot of things. Laughing is a great stress buster. I actually read a lot of books during that time that encouraged laughter, positive attitudes as a way to help the patient fight the disease. I really believe it. We made up many jokes about Tom's tumors. As a family we would sit the kids down to tell them that Tom had some new and terrible tumor or whatever, and always, by the end of the talk we would be laughing and making up jokes!

5. How do you honor your husband's memory and, at the same time, move on to new phases of family life? What traditions and activities have helped your family heal and grow closer?
As a family we talk about Tom as if he will walk in the room any time. My youngest, Kerry, was only nine when he died and I really wanted her to remember him, so we talk about him a lot. For instance, she didn't remember that he ran marathons, rode bikes, played tennis, and golf. He was all about sports and yet she didn't remember that. So I try to remember for her.

We have little traditions. This one is sort of warped, but Kerry and I always liked to wave at Tom as we drove past the cemetery!

Tom died on the 5th of July...his birthday is July 6, so it's sort of a hard time right then. I really try to be out of town for those days but, we usually go to dinner for his birthday. To celebrate his life, not his death. He always had a certain hat in his car. I keep it in my car to remind me of him...just little things. When Tom first died I thought ' I will never change anything in my house...I will just keep it the way it was when Tom was alive.' But, very soon I realized that was a silly thought because I LOVE to change things in my home. So I do.

As a family we like to travel and that's probably my favorite thing to do. It's nice to go away and just spend time together. We went to Ireland for Tom's 50th birthday, that was a spot he'd always wanted to visit, so we went for him.

After Tom passed on, I realized that you have to do things now. Don't wait for retirement or until the kids get older. You might not be around for in the NOW! Don't put things off. That's one of the most important things I learned. Spend time together. Just enjoy watching tv together, walking on the beach. You never know what's around the grateful for everything you have now.

6. Tell us about the AMAZING ways you are helping other families deal with cancer. How can the rest of us get involved?
When Tom was sick, he went to John Wayne Cancer Institute. He had the most wonderful doctors. Originally we were told he had 6 months to live and yet he lived 5 and 1/2 years after his diagnosis. I just felt like I really wanted to do something to 'give back'.
After Tom died, some friends wanted to have a memorial golf tournament, so we decided to make it a fund raiser and donate the money to JWCI. We are having our tenth tournament next April. It's a fun day to see old friends. We've had wonderful support from a lot of different's a great way to raise money for a great cause. I have a lot of support from my kids, friends, family. Hopefully, it will keep growing for many more years.

Everyone can help in all sorts of different ways. Just playing in the golf tournament helps, Or volunteering at a hospital or cancer institute, helping a family with cancer. Just bringing dinner in is great.

7. You have gone through so much and still seem to be one of the happiest, most positive people I know! How do you do it? What strengthens you and brings you joy?
That is a very nice compliment...I think I'm lucky because I've always been pretty positive and happy. But, don't get me wrong, I do have my share of 'blue' days. When I get down I usually call someone because, for me, talking is great therapy. The more I talk, the better I feel. Shopping is always nice. You know,if you're down --you pick yourself up by doing something for yourself.

My kids give me my greatest joy. I rely on them a lot. I don't think they realize how much. My son, Willie and his family live out of state, and now Kerry is away at school, so my happiest times are when we are all in the same state together. And if I can't have that I always think it's a great day if I get to talk to all of my kids in one day! It doesn't take much to make me happy.

My greatest strength is my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I can't tell you what a great help it's been to me. The thing I learned while Tom was sick was that sometimes prayers are answered the way you want them, but sometimes they aren't. Still, the Lord is with you always and I learned to rely on Him always. I know that I will be with Tom for eternity. I don't know if I would have survived without knowing that. What a blessing it is! It keeps me going every single day.

When I got married at the young age of 20, the furthest thing from my mind was the thought that my husband might die when I was 42. I thought I was getting married for the happily ever after. But guess what? I will have it!!! That's what is so wonderful.

So, that's what keeps me sane. I don't know if I'm doing everything right...probably not. But, I'm trying the best I can...

I don't even know what to say, Aunt Jo. You inspire me! Love you.

Jolyn blogs at Go with Jo. She was honored for her fundraising here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Big Exhale

The week between Christmas and New Year feels like what the step-class instructor calls a deep cleansing breath. Mmmmmm....Ahhhhhh....Everything is unwrapped, unbuttoned and undone. All the secrets are out. The calendar is cleared and life is unstructured for a few days.

Brad is off all week and that is truly the best Christmas present ever. Already he and the boys have christened the new Christmas chainsaw, taking it in the back woods to harvest firewood from fallen trees. Ladies, when in doubt, buy your man a power tool. Not only does it bring out his rugged, masculine side--it also draws the children to him like moths to a flame, leaving you free to do important stuff like laundry and reading O magazine.

And speaking of reading, that is my holiday 12-step recovery program. I am going to read, read, read my way through the big stack of Christmas presents and library finds sitting on my nightstand. It has been months since I have read anything. Except the New Testament, of course --which is completely amazing. I love it. But sometimes I just want to read something a little less, well...Biblical, I guess. Something by John Grisham or Sophie Kinsella or some other light writer. Any recommendations?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One Track Mind...

Merry Christmas!
May we enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mrs. Claus One Year Later

Ever like to go back in your journal and see what you were doing exactly one year ago? I checked my blog to see how was feeling LAST December 20th and had to laugh. I feel the exact same way...tired.

It's not lazy to post this again, is it? Just call it tradition.

Mrs. Claus is tired tonight. She's had a long day shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, laundering and adding those all-important final touches. Her in-laws' sleigh lands tonight, so she wants the North Pole to look just right. And the elves have not been so helpful.

While Santa gets the glory for all the big-ticket items, Mrs. C. sometimes feels picked on. Does anyone notice she has a big ole stingin' paper cut right between her thumb and index finger? Christmas card casualty. Does anyone care that all the teachers/coaches/bus drivers/neighbors have been remembered? With big jaunty bows and matching gift tags! Does anyone realize that all this Christmas magic has been generated by the Claus without the whiskers?! Ho Ho No.

This post is dedicated to all you Mrs. Claus-types out there. You, the unpaid masses, laboring in kitchens and classroom parties and dollar stores everywhere. You, who do your regular-every-day stuff and then tuck your children into bed so you can start in on the "holiday shift". You, who realize that Christmas is actually another full time job from Thanksgiving til New Year's Day. (Which, unfortunately happen to also be the shortest days of the year!) I salute you all.

Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus. But there is also a Mrs. Claus. And tonight she's very tired...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I Really DO Like Christmas

Church Christmas Party...where else?

In spite of all my whining recently, there is a lot to love about December. The excitement, the music, the baking, the parties. Christmas cards in the mail. (We are doing our Christmas card map again this year...Pennsylvania and Utah are tied for first place, with Arizona right behind.)

And...just to make things cozy, Mother Nature sent a sprinklin' of snow.

Although it was just a dusting, hats, boots, snowpants and all manner of gloves were strewn throughout the kitchen and laundry room. Getting ready is half the fun, right? (And the other half is drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows, of course. Requisite apres ski refreshment. Even if one spends only 16 seconds outside.)

The trampoline was the only spot cold enough for snow to stick, so Em spent a good hour out there and even created a li'l bouncing snowman (not pictured). Somehow she caught pinkeye doing this.

The highlight of the twins' life was being invited to a gingerbread house party. Just for four-year-olds! No big kids allowed! One of the moms brought Juicy Fruit gum to use as decoration. I have not smelled Juicy Fruit in 20 years. It tastes different than I remember and looks different too. But the smell is exactly the same and it took me back to simpler times.

My favorite Christmas song is currently:

How can you not love him? He's got "garlic in his soul!" I love garlic!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Five Reasons Why I Cannot Be Trusted Around Chocolate Today

  1. An entire morning spent at the pediatric dentist. The following words were used: Cavities. Overbite. Crossbite. Fillings. Orthodontia. Extractions. Return appointments. Payment Plans.

  2. A Christmas card from a long-lost friend and her photographic family. She looks good. Really good. Better-than-high-school good. Am I a Grinch to wish that Santa would bring her a big lump of cellulite and a double chin like the rest of us?

  3. Local law enforcement has decided that since my husband so enjoyed his Father's Day speeding ticket (delivered via wife), they would stop me AGAIN and send him another one. Merry Christmas, Babe!

  4. The November tickle in my throat has turned into a full-scale December cough. My bladder is taking it personally. 'Nuf said.

  5. Look at the calendar, people!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December Object Lesson

If the Lord can make a snowflake;
intricately shaped, perfectly symmetrical,
glistening sharp and cool.
And if he can smile as crystalline creation
floats from his fingers,
watching as his handiwork
lands in a landfill
or melts into a mud puddle,
Then maybe I can ignore sticky fingerprints on stainless steel
and toothpaste in the sink
and smile at muddy footprints on the floor.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

And I'd Quit Waxing Too...

If I were a Mama Bear:
  • I wouldn't be caught dead wearing spandex in a spin class.
  • Listening to NPR every morning would not make me depressed.
  • My cubs would not break into a mid-ride elevator fistfight because "It was my turn to push the button."
  • I wouldn't know that the Chipmunk Song is CD 1/Track 3 in my car stereo. (And I wouldn't know all the words either.)
  • There would be no OCD issues involving Christmas ribbon or gift tags.
  • Two words: NO LAUNDRY

If I were a Mama Bear:

I would lumber around in my shiny fur coat, eating everything in sight to get nice and fat for winter. Then I would snuggle down with Papa and the cubs, ignore the dirt on the floor and sleep until April. Upon waking, I would be pleasantly surprised to find Christmas over and all put away, daffodils blooming and my body weight down thirty percent.

Who says these girls are brutal? Sounds highly civilized to me!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Quick Christmas Pick

First of all, I would like to publicly thank my sister, Heidi, for giving me sixty free minutes of cell-phone therapy last night while I was shuttling kids to piano lessons. She patiently gave up an hour of her day to listen as I prattled on about my problems, administered some driver's seat discipline and placed my order at the Wendy's Drive-Thru. Sisters and cell phones have saved my sanity on more than one occasion.

Second, I would like to thank her for sharing this book with me last Christmas.

If you haven't read it yet, click here and get a copy. Or come to my house and borrow it. You can read it with your family in less time than it takes to watch Charlie Brown's Christmas special and you will enjoy it a whole lot more. Sweet, simple, but not too sappy.

The last page includes this thought by Henry Van Dyke:

Are you willing...

To stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children;

To remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old;

To stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough;

To bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts;

To trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you;

To make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feeling, with the gate open?

Are you willing to do these things for a day?

Then you can keep Christmas...

After, all Christmas-living is the best kind of Christmas-giving.

p.s. My mom wrote the sweetest Christmas post blessed I am to have a family who continues to teach me the real meaning of the season.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Seven Questions...'Tis the Season

I love to hear how others celebrate this time of year. Favorite books, recipes, and decorating ideas inspire me and make me feel festive. But, this year, I feel like I'm swimming in good ideas and need someone to throw me a life-preserver. A sanity-preserver wouldn't hurt, either.

How can real moms trim the tree and trim the budget at the same time? Cut out the cookies and cut out the stress?

Meet Kara...she's down-to-earth but full of good ideas and ready to share her philosophy on keeping the joy in the season.

1. What are your top three priorities during the holiday season? How do you make sure those stay at the top of the list?
#1- NO QUESTION teaching my kids to feel the spirit of Christmas. I want them to bask in the wonder of the whole season. I want them to think outside themselves and understand what Christmas really represents. Of course I would love to say that the only focus was spiritual, but there is a magical quality in the anticipation of giving and receiving. I want them to know that it's okay to get excited and have wishes during the season. If that is something that is treasured then they will be more willing to share that joy and anticipation for others.
#2 - Not trying to do too much. There is so much lost in the season when we try to fit in everything. We can't feel obligated to make every Christmas craft, card, and goody. We can't attend every party, get together, and event. We can't get too overwhelmed with what we think we "should" do. I really try to prioritize those things that will make the season meaningful to me and my family.
#3 - Create, implement, and follow through on family traditions. I think these are some of the things that really help accomplish the goals of priority. The traditions that we decide to implement in our families don't have to involve a whole lot of thought, planning, and frankly don't have to make much sense. All that matters is that it is something the kids identify with and have fun doing. If they realize that this is something that the family does each year together it is SO binding. Get ideas from friends, family, and neighbors...or make them up yourself!!

I also want to point out that it's never to late to start family traditions. It only takes doing something two times to become a "tradition". It doesn't matter if your kids are older. It might rev up some apathy on the teenagers part!!To answer the second part of the question...learn to say NO!! Like I said in #2, do what works best for you. Forget "obligation."
Decide what it is you want to create for your family and then DO IT. I would also suggest that during Thanksgiving weekend (unless you like to shop...yuck!) sit down and plan your December calendar. Mark a date for the activities that you KNOW you want your family to be a part of. Decide which days you are going to implement certain traditions. (ie. December 15th make Gingerbread houses, or December 23rd Christmas caroling.) If it is on the calendar then you will be more likely to do it. Of course you want to be flexible in case something exciting comes up, but make sure to reschedule the event on the calendar as you would an important appointment.

2. Is your extended family close by or far flung? How does that affect your Christmas traditions?
Most of my family, and my husband's family is in Utah. (We are in Arizona.) We have lived away from most of our family for 10 years though. When we first moved to Louisville, KY 10 years ago we had no kids and traveled "home" every Christmas.
Four years later we moved to Wisconsin with two kids. We had no money and my husband was on call for most holidays. We lived in a city where air travel was expensive and limited. Our first Christmas there was the first one we had by ourselves. At first I was heartbroken and wondered how we would enjoy Christmas without all the happenings of "home". It turned out to be one of the best. It was SO SIMPLE!! I made goodies with the kids when we could, decorated slowly and minimally, and Christmas morning was really low key. We were able to slow down and enjoy each other and the season. We never went "home" for Christmas during the four years we lived there. Of course there were things that we missed, but we really had a chance to do Christmas the way WE wanted to and not just the way it had always been done.
We now live in AZ and are a lot closer to our family. We have lived here for two years and have had different family members visit us for Christmas. I have LOVED that. I like that our kids are in their own home for Christmas morning, and I get to set the pace. I love that we have a place that can accommodate people and that is welcoming in the winter.
We have incorporated many of the traditions that we each grew up with and have started many of our own. This year I am going to really have to apply my "simplicity" principle because we will wake up Christmas morning here and then hop in the car and travel the 12 hours to Utah to be with family. Crazy...I know...but there are some events going on that we just can't miss!!

3. How do you include your children in seasonal preparations? What are their top five favorite activities this time of year?

Well, since most of the preparations revolve around the kids, they are involved a lot. Of course I try to gear it towards their ages. For example, when we make our traditional Santa cookies, I make sure the cookies are all made beforehand so they can just have fun decorating them. Last year Ella helped Grammie for a minute, this year she might be old enough to help me make the santa molds...we will see.
As far as their top five favorite activities...
#1 Decorating for Christmas.

This is a blessing and a curse. It is such a pain in a way, but if I try to relax and enjoy the process it becomes so much more fun. I also try not to stress about getting it all up in one day. The kids love to open up and discover treasured decor.

#2 I mentioned above. I have been making Santa cookies since I was little tiny! These are very time-intensive, but they are such a hit with everyone. Because it is a tradition it is so much more fun. I talk a little bit about our tradition of making Santa cookies HERE if anyone is interested.
#3 Making their Christmas lists. I try not to be too much of a downer on this one because like I said in question number one, I want them to experience the joy of giving and receiving. They love to look through all the catalogs that still find their way to our house (I swear I got on some list that was supposed to stop those). They circle things, rip out pictures, and make long long wish lists. It's funny and I want to save them so they will remember what they were interested in when they are older.
#4 Christmas lights. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Christmas lights. We love to drive around and look at all the different lights that people have put up. There is a house in our area that has their lights hooked up to a system where they coordinate with music. You just drive up to the house and tune your radio to the designated station and watch the show!! They love it and we usually visit several times during the season.
#5 Hanging all the pictures from Christmas cards we receive. We love to pour over them and recount memories of all of our good friends around the country/world! We have our own little Christmas picture contest. Each year when we are taking down the pictures we (just our little family) vote on the best one. We need to start sending something to the winner...that would be fun!!

4. Have you ever made any major Christmas "mistakes"? What have you learned from them?
Of Course!!! The biggest is getting too worried about fitting everything in. We had to go caroling, do cookies, make the cards, gingerbread houses, advent calendar, making all the neighbor gifts, decor throughout the house, attending every event, blah blah blah. Am I sounding redundant yet?
The other big mistake is too many presents. We have instituted a "tradition" now where each child receives three gifts to open from "Santa". These represent the three gifts brought by the three wisemen. Mom and Dad get credit for the stockings. Then of course there are the gifts from grandparents and sibling. This ends up being PLENTY!!
Oh, and giving my daughter a puppy for Christmas...BIG MISTAKE!! Don't get me wrong...she loved it! I, on the other hand, was not AT ALL prepared for what a dog in the family entailed. I am still paying for that one. (I'm always up for any tips on house breaking a dog, because has been almost a year...and she's still not trained. ARGHHHHH!! )

5. When you get married, you realize that each family celebrates the holidays a little differently. How have you managed to integrate your childhood traditions with your husband's? Any advice for newlyweds dealing with this?
This is really important. Some of these thoughts apply more if you live in the same city with both families, others are universal. I think that, first of all, each person needs to remember that Christmas traditions can be very sacred. So, the main thing is to sit down and really talk about expectations. For example: You might assume that every family gets up at the crack of dawn (or earlier) to tear into their gifts, but some families like to sleep in and enjoy a lazy morning.
Also, decorations can be a hot topic. Some may be very sentimental. Make sure to keep only those that have great meaning, and then ditch the others for an opportunity to decorate together.
Second, don't get offended if your spouse's family does things differently. You are your own family now and have to decide what traditions you are going to participate in and which ones you will create yourself. It's important to not put the kabosh on either family's activities, but don't feel obligated to be involved in everything each family is doing.
It's a good idea to try to take turns with Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. Let your families know when you are available well in advance. The main thing is to openly communicate and be willing to give a little. Sometimes (most of the time) it's impossible to make each side of the family happy. Just do your best and don't let it get to you if one family tries to lay on the guilt.
Remember you are your own family now and need to do what is best for you.

6. What are a few things you DON'T do at Christmastime? Why? How can busy moms streamline their preparations?
I personally DO NOT go shopping on Black Friday. That is just me though. I LOATHE shopping...anytime...but especially with crowds and waiting. I completely understand that some people LOVE this and it gets their juices going. I say good for them.
I have also done Valentines instead of Christmas cards before. There have been years where I realized that it was just too much. I do love to get cards though, so Valentines is a perfect way to share the Get Valentines?! A great bonus is that you have all your friends updated addresses from their Christmas cards!!
I DON'T sign the kids up for classes/activities that occur during the holiday season. Soccer just ended, and we are taking a break until the new year. We want as much time for holiday festivities and family as we can get. The last thing I want to be doing is running the kids from lessons to activities and back.

7. What is the best Christmas gift you've ever given? Received? What made them so special?
This question was EASY!! I am the youngest of six children in my family. I was the last one married and about ten years ago we were all living in different areas of the country/world. As siblings, we decided that since money was tight for all, and gift exchanges just ended up being like money exchanges anyway. So we would do something a little different.
My sister Heather came up with the idea that we would write one sibling a tribute letter each year until we got through the list. So, the first year everyone wrote to the sibling just younger (me to the oldest). For five years, we each received a letter from a different sibling detailing memories, expressions of love, and whatever else our creative minds could come up with!
Every year I would wait with great anticipation for the letter from my brother/sister. I cherish those words more than any physical possession I have. I was always so inspired by the talents, creativity and thoughtfulness of each letter. We are each different, and the personalities of everyone came across in the letters.
The plan is to bind the letters into a book and make a copy for each person. We are still getting around to that part. It was such a blessing to be able to take the time out each season to reflect on one of my siblings and what they have added to my life. I cannot think of any other gift that would mean more.
I highly suggest this...especially to families where all siblings are out of the house and on their own. It's a great bonding experience...and not bad for family history either.
I just want to end this interview by saying how important I think it is to focus on GRATITUDE this time of year. It's easy to get caught up in the give and get, but really we are all so blessed in this great country of ours. Let's all try to focus on the things that we cannot touch, see, or hear. I suggest on focusing on helping others FEEL the spirit of the season...because all people really how you made them feel.

Thanks, Kara! This is JUST what I needed this week.
Kara's blog is The Crazy Good Life. Ho ho hope you check it out!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Going Dutch

Don't forget to put your shoes out tonight...
It's St. Nicholas Day tomorrow...our family's favorite way to kick off the season.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I'm Obsessed With...

...our newest backyard buddy!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Here's the Latest

The "Guitar Hero"

Jake got this idea in his Bear Scout book. With a little help from his social worker, he put it together and has been strumming it for days. Jake wants a pet or a Nintendo DS for Christmas. He knows he is not getting either.

Maybe Santa will bring more boxes so he can build a paper puppy and a cardboard game system.

The "Sports Enthusiast"

Brad and his all-girl soccer team finished the season with a bang. It was a successful fall. Coach B-Rad showed patience, diplomacy and tact when dealing with the players...and even more important, with their parents.

Brad survived the annual church Turkey Bowl without injury. Yay! Unfortunately, he dislocated his thumb the following Saturday in a friendly basketball game with his buddies. Bummer, dude.

The "Love Machine"

Sam loved Thanksgiving. Sam loves Christmas. Sam loves counting.

I went to Sam's first preschool teacher conference and was informed that Sam is a delightful child with a real passion for numbers. Interestingly, he still has not decided whether he is right or left handed...kinda like his dad.

(Note: Being ambidextrous is a good thing. Especially if you dislocate your thumb playing basketball!)

"The Crazy Lady"

Guess what I did last weekend? Same as all you other crazy ladies...cleaned, cooked and shopped for Thanksgiving. Then cleaned it all up and put out the Christmas decor.

The best thing I did last year was post these photos of my house at Christmas time. It made decking the halls so much jollier and hollier this year!

"The Slider"

Luke has entertained himself all week with a pair of slippery track pants and the main-level floors. It's cheap, fun and my hardwood is gleaming.

At Luke's PreK conference, his teacher called him independent, coordinated and cooperative. Luke wants GeoTrax and a drawing kit for Christmas. I'm pretty sure Santa will deliver.

"The Beauty"

Emmie finished up soccer just in time for basketball season. She was delighted to be featured as the class Star Student this week.

Em helped all the boys in the family email Santa their Christmas lists at and is saving her money for the school holiday shoppe next week. She is a charming little elf these days.

"The Christmas Outfits"

More photos to come...

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